"Laughing at Putin is extremism," Russian schoolkids lectured over memes
Another meme scandal broke out in Vologda: the local multidisciplinary lyceum took offence with sixth-graders, who had made a page on the social network Vkontakte and posted funny memes there. Meduza tells the story.
A Vkontakte group called Karton 83 was created in March 2018 by sixth graders of the Vologda multidisciplinary lyceum - a school for gifted children from all over the region, as follows from its website. The group was a closed community initially, but then the students made it open for everyone to join. About 80 people followed the page.
According to a ninth-grader, who preferred to remain anonymous, people in the group posted jokes about teachers and fellow schoolchildren. “Offending someone was never our intention. We had a disclaimer: “The group is for entertainment and nothing else. The group does not promote insulting anyone,” he says.
A pupil of the eighth grade, who also asked not to say his name, told Meduza, “Something was posted about the teachers, which was definitely not offensive. For example, about the math teacher who is always in her phone in class, watching memes. Or about the gym teacher who curses. Then there was a meme about the head teacher: “What vampires are scared of: garlic. What mosquitoes are scared of: Mosquitol. What I’m scared of: and there is a photo of the head teacher”.
When the school management learned about this, the parents were summoned to the head teacher. It happened a few days ago, December 3rd. One student’s father and another student’s mother were invited to the office. “Andrei Platonov, the head teacher, his deputy and teachers were waiting for us in the office,” says the student's father on condition of anonymity. “They were holding memes printed on A4 sheets and were shaking them in front of us. Then they said that someone from the prosecutor’s office had already been to school last year and warned students that extremism was prohibited. And now, as they put it, “warnings are over”. According to the father, the deputy head teacher added that there was “something about Putin,” among the memes and laughing at him is already extremism.
A ninth-grader told Meduza that there was nothing offensive about Putin in the group: “We would not make jokes against the state; we understand what is admissible and what is not.” He says that what his teachers must have taken for “extremism” was a photo where schoolchildren make faces with the President’s portrait in the background in the school lobby. In addition, the student suspects that the head teacher might have taken offence with the jokes about him, because "He is not liked very much."
The school’s administration threatened the students with “administrative oversight,” and the head teacher said he had made a police statement.
A student of the 11th grade told Meduza that on December 3, one of the head teacher’s deputies made a round of the 7th and 8th grade, where the majority of the page followers were, and said, "those who do not leave the group will be summoned to the head teacher’s office." By December 6, only 28 out of 80 group members left it, and almost all of its content was deleted.
Vologda’s Roskomnadzor, the country’s mass media watchdog, told Meduza that they know nothing about the Karton 83 situation, but assumed "there will be some action."
Andrei Platonov, the head teacher, said to Meduza, “Memes insulting teachers were posted in the group. Photographs that were secretly taken during classed were used to make them, and under the Lyceum charter, photographing [inside the building] is prohibited. A statement to the police has been written. The police are investigating. Regarding the extremism allegations and anti-state activities, those are only in the parents’ heads.”
The father of one of the Karton 83 creators told Meduza that a parent meeting has been scheduled for December 7. “We and the other parents assume that they are going to tell us how not to make memes there,” he said.
The Investigations Directorate in the Leningrad Region of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) is going through turbulent times. After an unexpected replacement of the supreme command, the winds of change started blowing. Colonel of justice Pavel Vymenets, the new acting head of the agency, launched personnel reshuffles. According to sources, all means are used to purge the ranks from corrupt officers, including collection of compromising materials and denunciations.